What If You Don’t Say Anything?

The current state of the nation is soul-crushing.

We have a man in the White House who encourages violence if it works in his favor. Someone who does not understand the consequences that his words have on people’s actions and the psyche of America (or either he does not care). Someone who takes no accountability for their personal actions. 190K Americans have died and his response is, it is what it is”.

Tell me, what traits come to mind when you think of the word “leadership”? And not just any leader but a good leader? Usually, people think of traits such as Integrity, Honesty, Clear Communication, Accountability, Humility, Empathy, Emotional Intelligence, or the Ability to Inspire and Empower Others. Think of the people in your life who have made a positive impact. Donald Trump is not a leader. He’s a mediocre conman.

I struggle to understand how half of the US population is living an alternate reality where Trump is a hero. It makes me question my own sanity. How can people not see this? Am I the crazy one? Am I the one living in an alternate reality?

Then, I ground myself in my foundational values which are the driving force behind my actions and decisions. I value integrity, accountability, and standing up for the vulnerable. And I know without a doubt that this current administration is rooted in corruption and immoral values. And that brings me back to reality and reassures my conclusions that I have drawn by watching the actions of the Trump administration play out over the past four years. Even if I can rationalize that Trump has done some good things, how do you support someone that goes against all of your foundational values? How can you trust someone that has no moral compass?

I grew up a very quiet and shy person. I used to think that it was a major character flaw and there is something wrong with me. In retrospect, I spent those quiet years observing. I watched people, I listened. I made observations about body language, people’s reactions, and cause and effect. I am able to pick up on subtleties that others who talk too much do not notice. Now, nearing 30 — I feel that I have finally found my voice. I spent all those years observing people and the world around me, now its time for me to speak up and to be a voice for good.

The irony is that people in my past made negative comments to me about how quiet I was and now that I am standing up for what I believe in, people that I love are telling me to be quiet. To sit down, because I’m making people uncomfortable who think differently than I do. I should continue to be someone who doesn’t cause any disruptions. Be passive. Let others speak their mind but my role is to be pleasant. That is something you have to be prepared for when you put yourself out there. People will disagree and say hurtful things and may even think you’re stupid. But what if you don’t say anything?

Ten years ago, I remember sitting at Thanksgiving dinner with distant family members that I had not seen in years. One of them was a teacher at an underserved school in the south (with predominately Black students). She talked about how she had to perform house checks on students. Very casually, she referred to Black people as the “N” word. Her mom, sitting at the head of the table didn’t blink an eye. This was apparently normal for their family. I was shocked. I was appalled. But I did not say anything. I wouldn’t want to cause a scene, of course. The fact that I did not speak up against something so obviously wrong bothers me to this day.

We have an obligation to speak out when things are wrong. As John Lewis said, “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” We cannot let those who are going along with this madness force us to be quiet. Trump’s supporters are using fear tactics to silence opposition. Just recently his followers showed up in Portland and shot protestors with paintball guns and were labeled “Great Patriots” by Trump — consequently encouraging this behavior. Celebrities that oppose Trump are being branded as pedophiles by conspiracy group QAnon which Trump fails to condemn. Perhaps celebrities should learn to stay in their place and not use their platform for politics they say. There is a trend of using fear and violence to silence opposition. This is censorship. This is authoritarianism.

If you stand for freedom of speech, if you stand for justice, if you stand for integrity and accountability then you have to speak up. Right now, social media sites are being dominated by right-wing extremist conversations. We need more voices to counteract the narrative, to let people know that unethical behavior is not normal and is not acceptable. When pro-Trump extremism is the only content that people are seeing, it spills over to those more in the middle who make their judgments based on what other people tell them where it becomes accepted as normal.

I’m not saying that we should get into arguments in the comments section and post passive-aggressive memes about how dumb the opposite party is. I am saying that we should lead by example. Show others what a good human being is. But Robyn, you say, what about the racists? Great question. I recently watched a phenomenal interview from the University of San Francisco with Steph Curry and Clarence B. Jones, who was the lawyer for MLK Jr. and also helped write the “I Have A Dream Speech” and he addressed this very question. What about the racists and the deniers? Love them anyway. They are human too and they are not perfect. If you set the example, maybe they will follow. Attacking those people will not convince them to change their ways of thinking and you have to believe that people are capable of change. This is something that I struggle with but strive to do better at.

I will leave you with this scene from Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who. Do you remember the Sour Kangaroo who wanted to crush Whoville because she did not think Whoville was real? And do you remember when it took one extra voice to elevate Whoville’s message and save their world? You are that voice. Be a voice for good.

Public Sector Management Consultant | MPA | BBA